Africa’s largest female tusker elephant has died. Dida, who is considered the matriarch of Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park, died of natural causes this week, the Kenya Wildlife Service said. She would be between 60 and 65 years old.
“Dida was truly an iconic matriarch of Tsavo and a great repository of decades of knowledge,” the Kenya Wildlife Service said. “She has guided her herd through many seasons and difficult times.”
Dida was a tusker elephant, meaning she had tusks so big they scraped the ground. There are only about 25 tusks left in the world, most of which reside in the Tsavo Conservation Area, according to the Tsavo Trust, which was founded in 2013 to help protect the tusks, which are extremely rare and endangered by poachers.
These large tusks are particularly noticeable in females. Dida therefore stood out as an emblematic matriarch of the park.
Last year the Trust lost track of Dida and thought she might have wandered into an ‘elephant graveyard’. Although he said these aren’t the “dark and haunting” places depicted in “The Lion King”, older elephants sometimes become separated from the herd when they die. “We don’t know exactly why this is happening and it’s certainly not a rule that all elephants follow as they near their end, but it is definitely happening,” the Trust said.
Their hope for Dida was restored when a tourist took a picture of her last May. The elephant appeared to be in good health and was seen with others, even playing with a young elephant.
“She lived longer than many of us thought. For us to allow an elephant to live its full life is something we are very proud of,” the Trust wrote in a statement on Dida’s death. on Instagram.
The Trust said it did not have data more recent than 2016 on the status of elephants in Africa, but was “encouraged by the positive anti-poaching results” recently reported by neighboring Tanzania.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature attempts an African elephant report every 10 years. The most recent report from 2016 showed there were 415,000 elephants in Africa – a drop of 93,000 since 2006, but this number could vary as some elephants are missing.
CBS News has contacted Tsavo East National Park and the Tsavo Trust for more information about Dida and is awaiting a response.